Many people think that bed bugs can’t climb up glass surfaces. Some university fact sheets suggest people place bed legs in glass jars for this reason.
For example, The University of California’s IPM bed bug fact sheet says, “you can exclude bed bugs from clean beds by … placing [the legs of the bed] inside glass jars or metal cans, which are too slippery for bed bugs to climb.” Penn State says they have “difficulty” climbing “polished glass surfaces,” which is much more specific than the U of C’s advice. (By the way, in contrast with the U of C recommendations, we don’t recommend “isolating the bed” in most cases, but that’s another story.)
To address this issue of whether bed bugs can climb glass, Lou Sorkin provides the following educational videos showing that bed bugs can indeed climb up glass surfaces.
Lou writes of the first video:
After feeding, bed bug released into glass enclosure. It crawled over to edge and then started to climb up. It didn’t reach the top. If it had not eaten it would be less heavy and [this] possibly could help it hold onto glass.
(View here if you don’t see a video above.)
It would be interesting to see how an unfed adult bed bug fares in this test.
Lou writes of the second video,
Just fed male bed bug had crawled along the floor of the glass enclosure and then climbs up glass wall.
When it reaches the vicinity of plastic vial opening, it climbs off glass to join others in [the plastic] vial.
Hint: it has nothing to do with its claws. In case you are wondering, adult bed bugs have vestigial wings. They are small and pad-like so the insect is not able to fly.
Also viewable here.
So now we know! Thanks, Lou!
Louis Sorkin is an entomologist at the American Museum of Natural History in New York City, and one of the volunteer experts who helps field reader questions in our Bedbugger Forums, under the username “loubugs”.